Quotes of the day

A familiar problem for House Speaker John Boehner has a new name: the House Freedom Caucus…

For Mr. Boehner, the Ohio Republican now in his third term as speaker, wrangling recalcitrant House Republicans has long been part of the job description. Many in the Freedom Caucus have resisted his plans in previous fights, including in the 2013 standoff over Affordable Care Act funding that led to a partial government shutdown…

Last Friday, a group of 52 Republicans, including eight of the Freedom Caucus’s nine founding members, sank GOP leaders’ plan to pass a three-week extension of Homeland Security funding to buy time to search for a way to block President Barack Obama ’s executive action on immigration. Though opponents of the three-week bill included plenty outside the group, including some usually reliable leadership allies, the new caucus helped foment resistance to the funding measure…

“While we lost this battle, we certainly haven’t lost the war for what exactly the Republican conference wants to be when it grows up,” said member Rep. Matt Salmon (R., Ariz.), noting the group had received an influx of membership requests over the past week and has demonstrated its clout to GOP leaders. “They understand we are definitely a force to be reckoned with.”


When an outside group announced it would spend $400,000 in ads pressuring Republicans who voted last week against the three-week continuing resolution for the Department of Homeland Security, it created a problem for House Speaker John Boehner.

The organization, American Action Network, is run by a former chief of staff to Boehner, and so the ads were perceived as an attack by a Boehner proxy on members of the GOP conference.

“The speaker has nothing but disdain for the people in our group,” one member of the House Freedom Caucus, the group that provided most of the GOP opposition to the three-week CR. “They’re out saying worse things about us than they’re ever saying about President Obama.”


House Republicans abandoned their futile effort to tie funding for the Department of Homeland Security to the rollback of Obama’s immigration policies on Tuesday, approving its budget for the full year. Speaker John Boehner, having exhausted his options, broke the news to his caucus in a private meeting, and the House followed through with a bipartisan vote a few hours later. It was a complete, and ignominious, capitulation. But the real cost to the GOP is best measured in squandered opportunities, as it wasted the first two months of its broadest congressional majority in decades by picking a fight it could not win.

As the conservative editorial page of the Wall Street Journal wrote on Monday, “the immigration fiasco raises the larger question of whether House Republicans can even function as a majority.” With wider GOP margins following the November elections, the 114th Congress was supposed to be easier for Boehner. But after another humiliation at the hands of his right flank, his grip on his own conference is as weak as it has been during the last four years. Moreover, the GOP’s struggle to enact something as relatively non-controversial as security funding throws into doubt the idea that Republicans could tackle bigger challenges like tax reform, or quickly respond to a Supreme Court decision that could strip Obamacare subsidies from millions of people. “We in the House Republican conference need to have a family conversation about what it means to govern,” Representative Charlie Dent, a Pennsylvania moderate, told me just before Tuesday’s vote.


The House Republican conference is enormous in the wake of their 2014 gains, but it’s not so large as to provide the party leaders with a buffer for governing success.
Put it this way: when GOP leaders urge their own members to fund the Department of Homeland Security, and more than two-thirds of House Republicans ignore the call and vote the other way, it’s emblematic of a schism that can’t be ignored.
Boehner’s response has been that the party is united on goals, but divided on strategy. There’s some truth to that – nearly every House Republican is on board opposing President Obama’s immigration policy, but they differ on which tactics would be most effective. It’s a qualitatively different kind of split than, say, divisions between rigid ideologues and centrists inclined towards compromise and cooperation.
But as a practical matter, the kinds of differences are less important than the end result: a House Republican leadership that cannot effectively lead.



Maybe it’s time to think of the Republican House as a coalition government.

On paper, the GOP currently has 245 members, but when 50 feel they can walk away from their leadership on any given day, it’s really a plurality, not a majority.

The House, then, is not controlled by one party but is better understood as a playing field for at least three: the party on the right; the dominant Republican core in the center; and the left, represented by the Democrats.

The challenge is to build alliances among these three to get to the 218 votes needed to move legislation. This coalition approach may seem a blow to Republican pride, but it could also be liberating for John Boehner since it brings him back to the role he often forgets: speaker of the House.


But just as the Roman Senate fell into chaos because of weak leadership, causing a series of institutional deep wounds and eventual collapse into dictatorship, today’s House of Representatives resembles more a broken legislature than one worthy of the world’s preeminent power…

It’s impossible to ignore that Boehner is no Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) or House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), either. As does Boehner, both of these more recent Speakers had to deal with enormous issues of national importance, highly polarizing presidents and vocal minorities within their own parties that would rather see the president fail than the country succeed.

Imperfectly and always messy, Gingrich and Pelosi nevertheless managed to use their power to simultaneously advance their party’s agenda while allowing the government to function, to govern and serve the national interest.

Maybe it’s time to face reality. While the right wing of the House GOP clearly has an anti-Obama agenda that overwhelms their pro-America rhetoric in its practice, they have been unusually empowered by a Speaker who capitulates to this caucus’s most puerile, un-strategic instincts on an ongoing basis. Boehner has allowed his power to flow away, like water flowing down a mountain, without any resistance.


By picking the losing fight anyway, Boehner once again painted his party as obstinate and clueless, and himself as slavishly beholden to a small, vocal wing of the party. It could have been worse. Had Boehner really allowed a DHS shutdown to occur — and weeks ago he said he was “certainly” willing to let that happen — it would have been a PR disaster for the party. Terrorism in the Middle East and Europe have dominated headlines for months, and a Homeland Security shutdown would have given Democrats a golden opportunity to assail Republicans for leaving America vulnerable…

Since grabbing the Speaker’s gavel, Boehner has been unable to figure out how to get around his party’s right wing. In every battle, Boehner must weigh the demands of an obstreperous cadre that considers “compromise” a four-letter word against a course of rational governance. And when the hardliners’ demands win out, Boehner forges ahead with no game plan to extricate his party from disaster. The fiscal cliff, the debt ceiling standoff, the government shutdown, the DHS fight, and on and on — all are products of Boehner’s floundering political machinations.

At times, Boehner’s stumbles have blown up in epic fashion. On multiple occasions, he canceled votes at the last minute when it became clear he lacked the votes to avoid humiliating revolts from his own caucus. In his race to please the base, he couldn’t even sue Obama properly, as two law firms quit his long-promised litigation over the Affordable Care Act…

In other words: Boehner is either terrible at his job, or he hates the GOP.


Mr. Boehner has made mistakes, one of which is bending too much to the shutdown caucus. But let’s say the no-compromise crowd did succeed in humiliating the Speaker, and he resigned. What then? Whom do coup plotters want to put in charge?

Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan has support across the House GOP, but why would he want to run a majority that is hostage to the whim of 50 Members who care more about appeasing talk radio than achieving conservative victories?

Republicans need to do some soul searching about the purpose of a Congressional majority, including whether they even want it. If they really think Mr. Boehner is the problem, then find someone else to do his thankless job. If not, then start to impose some order and discipline and advance the conservative cause rather than self-defeating rebellion.


But for argument’s sake, say the motion to vacate succeeds and Boehner is successfully pushed out. Now what?…

It’s not enough to just say Boehner needs to go. House lawmakers would need to find someone to replace him — which is easier said than done…

Even if things got to the point of new nominations, Republicans who back Boehner would probably just nominate him again, and they say he has enough support to block any other Republican…

Here’s an alternate scenario: Boehner could step aside, embarrassed, and Republicans could agree to rally behind someone else. But who would it be? No one has made a serious attempt to position themselves for the speakership.


House Rules provide a privileged (meaning it takes precedence over other business) resolution to vacate the office of the Speaker. It can be offered by any Member. It would be a simple majority vote. If the entire House was voting, 28 Members would be needed to depose Boehner with all of the Democrats. Once vacated, a new Speaker election would ensue.

Again, as I argued in January, House conservatives do not need a formal candidate to take his place. Many will argue that they do, but they are wrong. It would be nice, but it is not crucial. The dynamic would be similar to that in 1998, when after Newt Gingrich and Bob Livingston stepped down, House Republicans themselves recognized the need for a new person to unite around. Nobody was running. They gravitated to Denny Hastert and tapped him to be Speaker. The process of “vacating the chair” is to show that Boehner cannot continue, signaling that it is time to find a replacement. A viable replacement will likely not step forward until then…

The Hill is … reporting that Democrats are now flirting with supporting Boehner on such a vote. This is just a bluff to prevent such a vote and preserve their de-facto majority. National politics is far more polarized than in state capitols with a much bigger spotlight. Even with a wink and nod in the short term by party leaders, it is simply not viable in liberal districts to have a vote for Rep. John Boehner (R-OH)N/A on your record. Democrats will have to vote, and they will vote against Boehner. They will do so because they have to, and because they can have a partisan victory of seeing the chaos and demise of the current leader of the Republican party.


An old communist friend of mine voted for Bob Dole.

Why? Because this communist was convinced, inaccurately, as it would later turn out, that he would never see his dream of a communist USA via conventional politics, and therefore his hopes were pinned on outright revolution.

And as far as revolution, there are four words to remember: The worse, the better.

It is now clear that none of us will see the America we want via any kind of politics that includes the Republican Party. Ergo, they must be erased from the pages of history as quickly as possible, so that a better party can replace them.

So I’m now a Democrat. The worse, the better.


Conservatives were, in the Washington Post’s notorious phrasing, “uneducated, gullible, and easily led.”

If we let this pass without tumult and retribution, we are just as the Washington Post said of us…

The time for a third party is now upon us. The Establishment has refused to compromise and find common ground; they are determined to just win and deliver their political deliverables to the Wall Street wing that serves as their paymasters.

A failing organization which will not be reformed must instead be destroyed.


President Obama’s Executive Order was not issued in a vacuum in which Congress had not acted, but instead was a direct declaration that the law would henceforth be enforced in a manner completely opposite from the written law on the books. Each and every person in Congress – Republican or Democrat, immigration hardliner or amnesty proponent, should have objected strenuously to this, if only for the sake of protecting the right of Congress to pass laws that will be enforced as written. Even if you agree with the President’s policy, if you are a member of Congress who cares at all about the rights of Congress to exist and do their job, you could not agree with the way the President went about accomplishing it.

The fundamental error which the framers made – which, in their defense, was perhaps not foreseeable at the time – was the way that the concept of “self interest” would change in the festering culture of Washington, DC in the early part of the 21st century. It was assumed by the framers that Senators and Representatives would always view the most powerful self interest they had as their right to write the laws of the country and to enlarge their own political power. They could not have foreseen – even in their most pessimistic visions – the fawning culture of lobbyists and the perks it would provide Senators and Representatives in the modern world. They could not have understood the way in which, as politics polarized, political parties and their self interest would ultimately become the only way to get and keep this power, along with all its attendant material benefits – nor the way that protecting a Congressman’s post-Congressional lucrative lobbying career would become the highest goal of nearly everyone who assumed the office…

The new reality in America is this – unless Congress is someday composed of two-thirds members of the opposite party of the President (which is an increasingly remote possibility in our increasingly polarized country), the President can from now on do whatever he wants. Only the Supreme Court remains with the power and the will to stop him, and only then when it feels like it or is ideologically opposed to what he has done. The most democratically responsive branch of the Federal Government now exists for the almost exclusive purpose of determining who receives the largest share of the taxpayer money with which the taxpayers are to be bribed for their re-election. Before long the executive branch will be likewise emboldened to act in regular defiance of the judiciary, as it currently is of Congress, and who will stop it then?